The role of the "builder" in community sport in Canada

Author/s: Tom Walker

Creation date: 2009

Contact info:

Senior supervisor: Noel Dyck

Keywords: volunteers, asset mapping, sport, community sport, sport governance, community development

Geographic focus: Canada

Research question/s: What are the political, bureaucratic, and organizational conditions and individual socio-economic characteristics that contribute to the emergence of the community volunteer builder?


In Canada, most of our community sport activities and the development of public sport infrastructure is led by, or depends on, volunteers. In light of this, the current decline in and changing nature of volunteer activity has profoundly negative potential consequences for community sport, recreation and physical activity, especially if key volunteers are not replaced. For sport and recreation managers in local government and elsewhere, the challenge will be to encourage and support existing community sport “builders” and to be on the lookout for their successors. This project provides insight into the motivations and contributions of community sport builders and explores the types of support they need and want for their work.


Through use of a survey, the author identified and then interviewed several volunteers who had attained leadership positions within and made significant contributions to their sport  organizations, and, consequently, to the broader community. The author found that the characteristics of these unusual builder volunteers were consistent with those of other volunteers, as identified in the literature on voluntarism. The author also found that these builders did not necessarily pursue community leadership as a stepping stone to a professional or political career, but instead became involved in response to a need or request from the community, usually in relation to their own children’s activities. In other words, there was nothing unusual about them as volunteers. Therefore, meaningful support for all volunteers in a community creates the best conditions for the builder type of volunteer to emerge.